Using DJI’s Phantom 4 RTK To Avoid Rework In Construction

Phantom 4 RTK
If you're in the construction industry, you know that projects are often spread out and involve many teams. As a construction manager, it can be a real challenge to properly coordinate multiple teams across the entire site from the command center. Fixed cameras don't give you a complete picture, and manually walking through the site is terribly inefficient. So how do we overcome this? Let's look at how one Phantom 4 RTK made the difference between misaligned roads and a rework-free construction site.

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Last year, in Jumeirah Pearl, a road was being constructed around a compound that was approaching the final stages. Only to find out that the road was misaligned by 10 m. Naturally, misalignment is the last thing you’d want to deal with at the end of a grueling project and can undo months of progress, causing reworks. So, once misalignment issues were identified, DJI’s Phantom 4 RTK was brought on to ensure that this would not repeat the second time around.

When you’re looking at progress monitoring, you would ideally want something that is quick, effective, and accurate. So, let’s consider accuracy for a second. If you want up to a centimeter-level of accuracy with a non-RTK drone, you’re looking at erecting upwards of 40 GCPs to get that level of accuracy. This is time you don’t want to spend on a busy construction site- especially when you must repeat it again next month. The P4RTK (Phantom 4 RTK) comes inbuilt with an RTK module that delivers accurate data without spending hours placing GCPs.

P4RTK is an extremely intuitive drone that is easy to fly and collect data with. The drone automatically calibrates elevations to the WGS84 and provides you with relative elevations. The RTK module and TimeSync enable you to get accurate data without the use of GCPs.

Construction progress monitoring using drone aerial mapping
Mission Planning on P4RTK

In this mission, the small and nimble frame of the P4RTK proved to be a crucial component. There isn’t going to be a large enough area dedicated to drone take-off and landing in small to medium-sized construction sites. The P4RTK’s was ideal for this medium-sized construction site. We just found a small pocket that was free of obstacles and action and got to work.

It took about thirty minutes to set up and two to three flights to collect the data.

It took about an hour and thirty minutes to cover the entire site, containing both nadir imaging for 2D orthomosaics and oblique imaging for 3D reality captures. The drone ensures the data captured is accurate; without any GCPs, we achieved a GSD of 2.5 cm.

For those who are yet to integrate drones into their construction workflow, the P4RTK would be a great drone to start with. It comes with intelligent flight modes that make plotting flight paths a simple matter of designating the desired area. The affordability paired with reliability and accuracy makes this drone thrive in construction sites. 

The P4RTK comes with a 1″ CMOS sensor, which further increases the accuracy and speed of the drone. The size of a camera-sensor determines how much light can be processed to create an image. As a result, a larger sensor allows the camera to capture more information than a smaller sensor, which it can then use to generate more accurate data. Large sensors also allow you to capture more light; this allows the shutter speed to be increased without losing the sharpness of images- but that means that the P4RTK can zip around your sites, capturing images quickly without losing clarity or accuracy.

Construction progress monitoring using drone aerial mapping
Project timeline

Suppose your site is in a particularly noisy (in terms of radio frequency) part of the city- this may cause issues with the RTK system. The P4RTK can also operate using PPK for the mission, further improving reliability. The controller also comes with a microSD card slot, a high-quality speaker, and hot-swappable batteries. We are big fans of hot-swappable batteries, and it removes a lot of the stress from pre-flight preparation. Suppose your controller is at the brink of losing all charge; you can just swap to a new battery on the fly and ensure your drone doesn’t lose connection.

Reliability is key when operating a survey-grade drone. Having a reliable transmission system lets you breathe a sigh of relief knowing that your drone and your site are safe. DJI’s OcuSync empowers the P4RTK. OcuSync transmission is less susceptible to interference, improving connection reliability even in areas with strong radio signals. It gives you a massive transmission and lets two pilots operate the same drone. So you can have one control the drone while the other controls the payload. Suppose you do drop connection with the drone, the OcuSync can quickly reconnect to the drone, allowing the pilot to always remain in control.

The P4RTK (Phantom 4 RTK) has you covered on all fronts- By removing GCPs from the equation, you save time without losing any accuracy, thanks to RTK. It’s an intuitive drone that lets you draft flight paths with just a few taps. The robust transmission and redundant systems give the P4RTK a significant reliability boost.

Now, let us return to our construction site manager- except now he’s got the Phantom 4 RTK helping him keep tabs on his construction site. He spends less time rushing to meetings just to get updates- compiling the snag list is much faster, in fact, 32% faster. With actionable data delivered to him periodically, he has an easier time coordinating his teams and ensuring that the site construction proceeds smoothly. After integrating the Phantom 4 RTK into their workflow to conduct Progress Monitoring, the construction was made more efficient and managed to eliminate rework.

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